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FACTBOX: What is malaria?

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sat, 18 Aug 2012 02:52 GMT
Author: james-logan
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James Logan is a lecturer in medical entomology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Any views expressed are his own. World Mosquito Day is celebrated by LSHTM on August 20 to mark Ross's discovery at the Ross Institute on Aug. 20, 1931. The institute was absorbed into LSHTM in 1934.

What is malaria?

Malaria is a serious and potentially life threatening illness caused by a tiny parasite called Plasmodium. The parasite is transmitted to humans by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria mainly affects countries in Africa, South and Central America, Asia, and the Middle East although most cases occur in Africa. Around 1 million people die each year from malaria.

You can catch malaria if you travel to a country which has malaria and you don't take the correct precautions. Around 2,000 people return to the UK with malaria each year.


The first symptom of malaria is often flu-like with fever, sweats and chills. You can also have other symptoms like muscle pain, headache, diarrhoea and sometimes a cough. If not diagnosed and treated quickly it can lead to a much more serious health situation which can cause coma and death. What can you do? Remember the ABCD of malaria (recommended by the HPA)

  • Awareness of risk - check your destination to see if malaria is a risk and visit your GP or your usual travel health advisor in plenty of time (6-8 weeks ideally but it is never too late) for travel health advice before you go.
  • Bite prevention - use an insect repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethylmetatoluamide) above 30 percent, wear cover up clothing especially at night when mosquitoes are most active, sleep under an insecticide treated bed net.
  • Chemoprophylaxis (preventive medication) - speak to your travel health advisor to find out which medication is right for you and your destination well in advance of your departure date.
  • Prompt Diagnosis - malaria prevention methods are very effective but they do not provide 100 percent protection. If you or any of your family has a fever or flu-like illness after being in a country with malaria you must see your doctor urgently. Tell them where you have been and mention malaria. Remember you could still have malaria, even a year after a trip to a malaria-endemic area.

   For more about World Mosquito Day visit YouTrust

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